All 17 UKIP councillors represented in Thurrock Council have left the party to form their own group, the Thurrock Independents. Until the change on Friday, UKIP was the second largest party behind the Conservatives who currently control the council.
“Thurrock Independents opens its doors to all Thurrock residents. Whether you have voted Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Green, UKIP or don’t normally vote, matters not. If you are committed to improving Thurrock for all then you can find a home in the Thurrock Independents.”
Controversially, Tim Aker MEP remains a UKIP MEP and also a Thurrock Independents councillor. His Twitter profile suggests he intends to remain in both: “@ThurrockIndy Councillor for Aveley and Uplands Ward. @UKIP MEP for East of England.”
Westmonster has confirmed his intentions to do just that.
The mass defection and the creation of an entirely new group in Thurrock is a major blow to UKIP. Following allegations regarding offensive texts Henry Bolton's now ex-partner sent about the Royal Family, there have been a string of resignations from the UKIP front-bench team, as well as calls for Bolton to go.
The Huffington Post reported last week that Jonathan Arnott, the UKIP MEP for the North-East, has quit the party over Bolton’s leadership. On top of that, one-time leadership contender Suzanne Evans wrote in the Times on Thursday calling on Bolton to go.
The party is ripping itself apart and so far Bolton remains in place even following the NEC's vote of no confidence in him, as reported by the BBC.
With local elections coming in May, including those to Thurrock council, the departure of seventeen UKIP councillors is deeply damaging to the party. With the UK likely to end up with a transitional arrangement and the potential for a soft-Brexit, UKIP can make progress by fighting for a hard Brexit. There is a clear opening for them to cut through to the public.
But under the current circumstances, any chance of a party revival in May and beyond is fast diminishing.
Is this another nail in UKIP’s coffin?